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During summer holidays as a child, Carolyne Doyon would watch the television game show The Price is Right, where a lucky contestant would walk away with a showcase of fabulous prizes. The showcases often included all-inclusive vacations to exciting destinations. Doyon promised her mother that as an adult she would take her on the exact same holidays.
The glamor of game show vacation prizes and her childhood in a multicultural Montreal neighborhood inspired Doyon to study tourism management. It also led her to Club Med, where she oversees a constellation of properties for the legendary resort operator as President and CEO, North America and the Caribbean.
“There’s always been that interest in discovering the world,” Doyon tells The CEO Magazine. “I always knew that the world was bigger and greater than where I was in my little Montreal neighborhood.”
Founded on the Spanish island of Mallorca in 1950, Club Med pioneered the all-inclusive vacation with breathtaking properties around the globe, personalized service and a unique flair of its own.
Club Med commands instant name recognition and ranks among the top brands in travel, having permeated popular culture as a synonym for exotic escapes and fun in the sun.
The brand, however, has matured and transformed over the past quarter century as Club Med increasingly hosts travelers – known as Gracious Members – seeking exceptional experiences in chic settings.
Its resorts are especially appealing to families, who crave the convenience and comfort of the all-inclusive experience. Children, meanwhile, can be registered in one-of-a-kind children’s club programs, which are “not just like a babysitting service”, according to Doyon.
“Our worldwide footprint sets us apart. We are always trying to seek new trends, to offer new products ahead of the competition.”
“It’s truly a vacation for the kids because they learn new activities, they interact with the GOs [Gracious Organizers, as Club Med staff are known] and they meet people from all over the world.”
Parts of the original Club Med experience continue, including the attention provided by GOs, who advise and accompany guests while representing the company’s five core values: kindness, freedom, responsibility, pioneering spirit and multiculturalism.
GOs’ roles can include teaching sports to guests, taking them on excursions or even joining them at meals if desired.
“They are your host, and they truly spend a week with the guests, meaning that they interact with them a lot,” Doyon says. “It’s a true immersion when you arrive in Club Med, versus the classic all-inclusive where you just arrive, you do your stay and you don’t have many interactions.”
As a pioneer in the sector, Club Med continues to innovate. It operates nearly 70 resorts around the world and has plans to continue opening its all-inclusive beach and mountain resorts worldwide.
“Our worldwide footprint sets us apart,” Doyon says. “We are always trying to seek new trends, to offer new products ahead of the competition.”
One of the trends Club Med has captured is the market for 3G tourism, or multi-generational families vacationing together. It has renovated its resorts to create different zones catering to parents with children and grandparents joining the family, according to Doyon.
Club Med has also opened its properties for corporate retreats and sales meetings. Its Québec Charlevoix resort in Canada includes meeting and events spaces, while, in Mexico, its Cancún and Ixtapa properties feature a meeting room.
“It’s easy to organize. Someone is taking care of you from the beginning to the end.”
While conventions and meetings can be complicated to convene, Doyon says that’s not the case with Club Med. “It’s a one-stop shop,” she says. “It’s easy to organize. Someone is taking care of you from the beginning to the end.”
That is key to the company’s success, she says.
“Club Med always strives to be ahead of the curve, meaning that we’re very savvy in terms of knowing what the customers want and what they’re looking for, but also anticipating the trends. And this is one of the things that Club Med is very, very strong at,” she says.
No one could anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic, but Club Med worked through the turmoil to open several new properties, including a resort in the Seychelles and a four-season mountain resort at Charlevoix, Quebec.
The development at Charlevoix – with spectacular skiing and breathtaking views of the St Lawrence River – marks a return to the North American alpine market.
Club Med continues its ambitious worldwide development plan to expand its portfolio with three to five openings or renovations per year, including in the Caribbean, North America as well as mountain resorts as it looks to introduce not only the all-inclusive vacation concept to American travelers but also its French savoir-faire (know-how), five-star Exclusive Collection and global sustainability program.
“We continue to develop our resorts and we maintain our development plan,” Doyon says. “In parallel to this, what we have done is to continue to invest in our talent. We have not cut back.”
That approach has improved employee retention in a competitive labor market. But it’s also part of Club Med’s ethos of developing its people, promoting from within and providing unparalleled opportunities in the hospitality sector.
“At the end of the day, it’s a team effort. So you can be the best leader, but if you don’t have the right people surrounding you, you’re not going to go very far.”
“When we come into a market, we explain to them that Club Med is not just a regular job, it’s a lifestyle,” Doyon says.
As an example, she says, GOs can start traveling within six months of starting and “they know that at a very young age we empower our talent so they can have a role, learn a lot, grow within that role, and take a step-up very early on”.
As a CEO, Doyon believes in surrounding yourself with the best talent.
“You are nothing without your team,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s a team effort. So you can be the best leader, but if you don’t have the right people surrounding you, you’re not going to go very far.”
And Doyon has big goals firmly in her sight. “Our ambition is to become the most desirable holiday lifestyle brand, offering a unique experience, while contributing to sustainable tourism.”